Diets have always been heavily influenced by the seasons. Historically, summer has been associated with eating fresh summer squash and berries, while the winter found people turning to citrus and root vegetables. Unfortunately, while our globalized marketplace, refrigeration and other preservation techniques have given us affordable access to all kinds of food year-round, these technologies have all come at a cost. Too many now associate the shorter daylight hours with the sickly sweet aroma of pumpkin spice.

I must admit, although the idea of eating seasonally is very romantic, sometimes I just want a fresh strawberry in the middle of January. However, I have managed to keep the idea of seasons alive in one area of my diet: soup. I basically have a soup season (i.e., winter and fall) and a non-soup season (i.e., summer and spring).

While that may sound simple enough, it is often difficult for me. I love soup—but the idea of schvitzing into a bowl of pho in the middle of a 90-degree day is not appealing.

As such, the changing of the calendar from September to October is a very joyous time of year for me. Soup is officially back on the menu! And to help us get our slurp back on, here’s a list of some of the best places to get all souped-up. From birria to tom yum—and almost everything in-between.

Birria

La Birrieria
1480 S White Rd, San Jose
408.258.9612
Hailing from the Mexican state of Jalisco, birria is a goat soup traditionally reserved for special occasions like baptisms and weddings, as well as holidays such as Christmas and Easter. La Birrieria, on San Jose’s Eastside, has been stirring up the real deal since 1986. Their goat, which is bathed in a delicious chili-infused broth and served with housemade corn tortillas, comes out fork tender and does wonders for a cold… or a crudo.

Borscht

Samovar Deli & Catering
1077 Independence Dr, Mountain View
650.969.5327; bestrussianfood.com
A sour Eastern European soup with a delicious ensemble of earthy vegetables—such as cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes—borscht isn’t in great supply in these parts, but you can find it. Its distinctive bright red appearance comes from the beetroots, and while most of the ingredients are vegetarian friendly, the base is usually a beef stock. At Samovar Deli they serve their borscht with a small bowl of Russian smetana (sour cream) and rye bread to make for a more complete meal.

Bun bo Hue

Bun bo Hue An Nam
Multiple locations
This specialty Vietnamese soup has its origins in the former capital city of Hue. With its delicate balance of sour, salty and spicy, this beefy and brothy bowl is one of the more interesting soups on the list. The gold standard for years has always been the aptly named local chain Bun bo Hue An Nam. They are renowned for their amazing broth and one specialty ingredient: ox pizzle (penis). Yes, that magical ingredient was enough to draw in the Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel show, Bizarre Foods America. While diners can order their soup sans pizzle, I would recommend trying it at least once—if for no other reason than to spice up the Instagram feed.

Cioppino

The Fish Market
Multiple locations
thefishmarket.com
A Fisherman’s Wharf favorite, cioppino features a slow-cooked Italian-flavored tomato broth and, when done properly, comes loaded with seafood. The Fish Market has been my longtime standard for anything dealing with fresh seafood in the South Bay, and their cioppino is on point. The hallmark of any good cioppino is the Dungeness crab that comes along with it, and Fish Market even offers up a “lazy man’s” version (my favorite) where, for a nominal $3 fee, the crab comes out pre-shelled.

Clam Chowder

Billy’s Boston Chowder House
29 E Main St., Los Gatos
408.827.4005; bostonchowderhouse.com 
Though this was once a traditional Friday dish, clam chowder—or chowdah for those New England ex-pats living amongst us—is practically a meal in a bowl and should be on the menu every day of the week. A creamy broth, big chunks of actual clams and perfectly cooked hunks of potato are the hallmarks of a good bowl. With its silken broth and fresh, daily-shucked clams, Billy’s makes this one of the better, and most authentic, bowls around.

Gazpacho

Tigelleria Organic Restaurant
76 E Campbell Ave, San Jose
408.884.3808; tigelleria.com 
This classic Spanish recipe is the one soup on the list that will make me break my summer fast. Gazpacho is made from blended tomatoes and other vegetables and served cold. Tigelleria’s version comes out with an Italian flare and features onions and bell peppers to go along with the standard tomato base. It’s refreshing any time of year, but even more so on a blistering hot summer day.

Gumbo

Poor House Bistro
91 S Autumn St, San Jose
408.292.5837; poorhousebistro.com
Gumbo is so popular down in Louisiana that it’s actually their official state cuisine. The ingredient list itself practically screams bayou country: shrimp, andouille sausage, mirepoix, okra and a copper roux—just to name a few. And when it comes time to eat like a Cajun, there’s only one real legit spot in my book: Poor House Bistro. For nearly 15 years the Poor House gang has been a little slice of LA here in CA, and their gumbo is no joke: thick, hearty and stick-to-your-ribs good with tons of flavor and spice. They have a seafood version and one with chicken and sausage. Pro tip: Ask for an off-the-menu combo of the two for no extra charge.

Hot & Sour

Hunan Taste
998 N 4th St., San Jose
408.295.1186; hunan-taste.com
Great for a cold, this spicy, tangy soup has had a long-standing tradition as a Chinese takeout standard for many years. While most variations are similar, Hunan Taste’s recipe is a cut above the rest. Their amazing broth can be ordered mild to extra spicy. (Heat-heads be warned: Take those little chiles on the menu seriously.) They also keep the ingredient list healthy and simple with just bean curd, bamboo shoots, wood-ear mushrooms and egg.

The tom yum and tom kha are both delicious soupy choices at Thai Love You. Photo by John Dyke

The tom yum and tom kha are both delicious soupy choices at Thai Love You. Photo by John Dyke

Matzo Ball Soup

Gunther’s Restaurant
1601 Meridian Ave, San Jose
408.266.9022; guntherscatering.com
This one is almost only available in New York delis or your favorite Jewish grandmother’s kitchen. However, this Yiddish delight can be found at Gunther’s Restaurant, in southeast Willow Glen. With a delicious house-made chicken broth and dense, yet airy, balls of matzo meal, you should order it as a side accompaniment to their delicious Reuben.

Menudo

Las Cazuelas
55 Race St, San Jose
408.293.0115; lascazuelasrestaurant.net
This Mexican tripe and hominy soup is renowned as a powerful hangover remedy, which explains why most Mexi spots only serve it up on weekends. However, at Las Cazuelas it is a daily special. The savory and spicy chili broth pairs perfectly with their plentiful tripe. Add the full complement of accoutrements (i.e., chili pods, onions, and Mexican oregano) for the true experience.

Pho

Pho Ha Noi
969 Story Rd, San Jose
408.239.0888

Pho Dao
1631 N Capitol Ave, San Jose
408.251.1917; pho-dao.com
San Jose’s massive Vietnamese population—the largest outside of Vietnam—makes pho, in my opinion, the official soup of the South Bay. There is practically a pho shop in every neighborhood. While most diners are only familiar with the more available South Vietnamese version of this beefy soup, with its star jasmine and white onion-flavored base, the lesser known North Vietnamese version, which has more of a gingery and green onion base, is also worth exploring. Whichever direction diners choose, there’s an amazing spot for both. My favorite Northern-style is Pho Ha Noi in San Jose’s Little Saigon neighborhood, while my favorite Southern-style is Pho Dao in the Berryessa neighborhood. Make sure to order the “fresh” noodle option at both, as the wide tender noodles are always the right choice.

Pozole

Linda’s Restaurant
1179 E Santa Clara St, San Jose
408.971.8444
While this might be more of a stew than a soup—the differences between being purely academic—I’m going to throw it in because Linda’s version might be the GOAT. Their fork-tender pork shoulder is cooked for hours in a chili-infused broth, resulting in utter culinary perfection. Factor in the standard hominy and concomitant cabbage, lime and avocado, and diners will have a warm, hearty meal to combat even the coldest of days.

Ramen

Orenchi Ramen
3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
408.246.2955; orenchi-ramen.com
The unofficial national food of Japan is a tasty favorite for many diners regardless of the weather. Orenchi’s broth is rich, unctuous and has that milky white color that only comes with long hours of cooking. Their chewy noodles are probably the most perfect ramen noodles in the Bay, and the tonkotsu pork slices practically melt in the mouth. Pro tip: Get there at least 20-30 minutes before opening to reserve a spot. No reservations are taken, and lines can be a bit on the ridiculous side.

Shorba

The Mynt
5210 Prospect Rd, San Jose
408.973.9673; themyntsj.com
This lesser-known vegetarian Indian soup starts out with a thick, stew-like base of lentils and allows chefs to use their imagination to fill in the rest. The Mynt has done several variations of shorba in the past, but their current variation features roasted pumpkin cubes slowly simmered to perfection.

Tom Yum & Tom Kha

Thai Love You
6055 Meridian Ave Ste 100, San Jose
408.268.8499; thailoveyousj.com
These ubiquitous Thai soups come in a nice array of options, including chicken, veggie and seafood varieties. However, the base broths have a similar spicy and sour lemongrass-infused flavor. The tom kha has a nice twist of sweetness via the coconut milk. Executive Chef Kunlayakorn “Kat” McCarthy’s hole-in-the-wall, Thai Love You, has some of the more superlative variations I’ve sampled. Her recipes are handed down from her aunt and grandmother to ensure authenticity, while all the locally sourced ingredients assure fresh taste.